If noisy mechanical keyboards are the bane of your life, at home or in the office, you may have found the perfect excuse to stop your co-workers or loved one from smashing those keys so hard – it turns out hackers can almost see precisely what you write, just by listening to you type.
Keytap3 is software developed by Georgi Gerganov that can detect which keys are pressed by simply listening closely with a half decent microphonewith Gerganov demonstrating this using a cell phone’s built-in microphone in an “acoustic bug test” on their YouTube channel.
This isn’t the first version Gerganov has developed, although it’s by far the most intuitive, having previously dabbled in projects that required the user to type a series of predetermined words and phrases to “train” Gerganov’s software to decipher. which keys are used selected.
Earlier versions also required that the position of the microphone used to record typing remained unchanged between the test and the actual running of the software, although these limitations do not exist with Keytap3, which as the name implies, the third version of the project.
Gerganov explains that it “works by clustering the detected keystrokes based on their sound similarity and then using statistical information about the frequency of the letter n-gram in the assumed language of the text (e.g. English).”
We tried it using the Razer Huntsman v2 Analog which uses Razer’s own analog toggle switches, which yielded pretty mixed results, so it’s fair to say this isn’t 100% accurate yet. Still, most of what Keytap3 discovered as we typed was in fact what we were writing, meaning it could detect important data like passwords and sensitive information in private emails. Scary things.
You can try this yourself on the Keytap3 website by following the instructions below that Gerganov has provided to better optimize the experience.
- Be in a quiet room
- Open this page on your phone and place it The next to the keyboard of interest
- You can also open the page on your PC and place the microphone next to the keyboard
- Note that the keyboard doesn’t even have to be connected during this test
- press the In the button below and give microphone access to the webpage
- Type what English text on the keyboard using only lowercase and space
- Try not to type faster than 250 CPM
Luckily this only works with mechanical keyboards, and noisy ones, because the sound has to be loud enough for a microphone to pick it up. If you’re particularly concerned, you can replace your current key switches with something quieter, such as Cherry MX Silent switches. Even if the risk of hackers eavesdropping on your conversations is small, said colleagues can thank you for giving their ears a rest.
Analysis: this is not yet a real concern…
If this has you on edge, then I have both good and bad news for you. The good news is that while this is pretty creepy, it’s unlikely that hackers could break into your private space and place a microphone close enough to your keyboard without you noticing.
The bad news is that there are plenty of other ways your keyboard can give away your private data. Keystroke logging dongles exist that plug into a keyboard’s USB cable, and wireless keyboards can be exploited using hardware such as key sweepera device that can record keyboards at the 2.4GHz frequency when placed in the same room.
There are even complex systems that use lasers to detect vibrations or fluctuations in power lines to record what is being written on a nearby keyboard.
But if you’re a fan of mechanical keyboards, don’t let this put you off, especially if you’re using one at home rather than in a public office setting. It is highly unlikely that you will have to take extreme measures in your own home and just about everything comes with a security risk these days. Sometimes it’s just better to enjoy the annoying tapping than keeping yourself up at night worrying that hackers are eavesdropping on your Facebook messages to your mom.